Family Photograph: Serednovi 1940

Family Photograph: Serednovi 1940 Type: Photograph
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches)
Year: 1940

This is a photograph taken of my father Leib (Lipot/Leopold) Moskowitz when he was 12 years old (figure on the right), along with his mother (figure in the middle) Lea (Lenke), and his older, almost 14 year old, brother (figure on the left) Chaim Hersch (Herman).This picture was taken in Serednovi CSR in 1940 in a photographer’s studio upon request of Leib’s father, Nathan (Nusen) who was performing Hungarian slave labor (Munkatabor).

As told by Leib Moskowitz: “My father was in Hungarian slave labor camp. He was first drafted and taken away (from his home in Kuzmino) at the end of 1938 or 1939 and was given a regular uniform to wear. Then later (after Hungary allied with Germany), they took away his uniform, but they allowed him to wear a military cap and civilian clothes. He also had to wear a yellow arm band (He was now officially in slave labor). He used to write letters to us about once a month. Sometime In 1940 he sent a letter to my mother asking her to please mail him a photograph of her and the two kids. We didn’t have anything like cameras. To take a photograph we had to go to a special photographer. The closest one was in a nearby town of Seredna. We walked from Kuzmino to Seredna to get the photograph taken. First we crossed a little bridge over a river. Then we walked through a few towns until you got to Seredna. The photograph that my father requested was taken in a photography studio” (From the forthcoming book; Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival (Shoah Forensics Art Institute Publishing, 2014).

My father in 1944 along with his family (except for his father who died doing slave labor on the Russian front in Kanatevka) were transported to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. From there he was transferred to Mauthausen, and from there to sub-camp Melk where he was assigned to do slave labor for “Project Quartz”. From there he was transferred to another sub-camp, Ebensee, from where he was ultimately liberated by the American army.

After he was liberated in 1945 he initially returned to his home in Kuzmino CSR. He relays:

”At day break I wanted to go see our house. I approach my house and see that there are no windows and no doors. One room had iron gates. They were still there, they weren’t taken away. I walked in, and saw that there was nothing inside; not even a stick of furniture.

One room had wooden floors. We’re walking around and I see what looks like a small piece of paper on the floor, the only thing that was left in the whole house. I bend down, and pick it up. It was the photograph of me, my brother and mother that we had taken in Seredna in 1940. I pick it up and put it in my pocket. There was ground -in dirt still on the picture. I didn’t rub it off; I was scared to ruin it. It was already partially ruined. I still have this picture, and the dirt is still on it” (From forthcoming book; Kuzmino Chronicles: Memoirs of Teenage Holocaust Survival (Shoah Forensics Art Institute Publishing, 2014).

This is the history of this photograph. It is haunting for the absence of Herman’s face. Particularly because there are no other images of Herman, and my father no longer remembers how he looked.

Using forensic art techniques based on documentation found on Herman’s Mauthausen Haftling (Prisoner) card archived in Yad Vashem along with guessing at similar family resemblances, this photograph was artistically reconstructed in oil; Shoah Forensics III: Family Photograph Re-illumination, www.nahumhalevi.com. This painting was done in collaboration with Judy Horowitz, an internationally and nationally recognized portrait artist.